Thursday, April 28, 2011

Emergency Preparation: Tornado Warning

Our new state and region have been hit hard by severe weather in recent days. I have had emergency preparedness on my mind, considering all sorts of scenarios from being without power for several days and what we might need to what we would do during a tornado warning now that we no longer have a basement.

What preparations have you made that consider your child with special needs? I'm looking for insight.

Despite the fact that we are far from being unpacked (I am waiting for some work to be done on some storage areas), one of the first things I did was establish our safe place to go to during a tornado warning. Experts tell us to choose a bathroom or closet in the middle of the house, on the lowest level of the house, putting as many walls between us and the outside as we can. Check. Next for my "kit". I don't have a weather radio (I have it on my shopping list), so I put a regular battery operated radio into the kit. I dug out flashlights and extra batteries and enough bottles of water for everyone in our family. And that's it.

My husband and I were told to sleep with our shoes beside the bed when we lived on the San Andreas fault, and as we went to bed night before last, with storm watches all around us, I made sure we all had our shoes nearby. If windows were to break, you want to be able to protect your feet from broken glass. Sleeping with shoes beside the bed is a good habit to have.

I assigned a flashlight to my son's room, one to our room, and put more flashlights on my shopping list. (I actually assigned flashlights a couple of weeks ago when we had our first storm watch through the night while hubby was out of town on business. A kind neighbor scared the crap out of me, ringing my doorbell after we were in our pajamas and reading or watching TV before bed, to tell me that the siren is close to our house - I can see it from here - and it is loud, so that we wouldn't be freaked out if it went off in the night. I am so glad she came over to tell me that.)

Night-before-last, hubby and I stayed up and watched the non-stop TV weather reporting; I followed it until around 1:30 am when one system passed by us. Another system was a few hours away. I slept in my clothes and tried to keep my shoes on, just in case, but the shoes were too uncomfortable. I placed them beside the bed.

Yesterday, as I watched the uninterrupted storm coverage on TV, we were placed under a tornado warning a minute or two before the siren sounded. As hard as I'd tried to have Li'l Bit keep up with her shoes, she didn't have them. That was the one thing we had to scramble for. Otherwise, the kids and I dove into our teeny safe place to settle in with a laptop, a cordless phone, our cell phones, an iPod, and a NintendoDS.

We did not lose power, but we did lose our TV signal. We were able to watch a local TV station online via a live stream. I was glad to have found that web site prior to the warning.

We were in our safe place approximately 15-20 minutes. I spent some of the time texting my husband the entire time; he was in another state on business (he rarely travels, yet he has been out of town both times that we have had severe weather since we moved) and he was in an area that was making news because of how hard the storms were hitting. I was more concerned for his safety than for ours.

The NintendoDS entertained Li'l Bit for approximately five seconds. No, I'm not exaggerating. She was the most uncomfortable. Four of us in a really small room was uncomfortable. The audio from the weather coverage on the laptop was loud, but I was reluctant to turn it off. Additionally, I think she was really frightened and didn't know how to handle her fear. The siren was loud and scary and made the danger feel real. I was always terrified by tornado watches and warnings as a child and I could relate to her fear. I tried to reassure her as best I could and refused to allow her to leave the room.

The siren stopped sounding while the TV weather reporters were still describing the track of the storm. (Was surreal to hear them describe the storm first in the downtown area near us and then moving toward the area where we had stayed in a hotel just a few weeks ago.) My children expected to be able to leave the safe place when the siren stopped, but the actual tornado warning had not expired at that point. I did not anticipate that happening. Li'l Bit just wanted out of the room and she bordered on a meltdown. She understood why she had to stay but she did not like it.

I have to come up with something else to put in my kit for times when we are taking shelter in our safe place. I need temporary distractions, something to do. Ideas, anyone? Anyone? I will probably add a deck of Uno cards or other card game, and maybe a package or two of Skittles or some Lifesavers candies or chewing gum for some oral motor and proprioceptive input. Ear plugs, maybe. There is little room for a blanket or throw to wrap around a child, and probably not enough room for one for all of us, but I may put one in our kit anyway. That room will be a tight fit if our entire family is in there.

How have you prepared for an emergency? Have you been through an emergency situation? What did you do right? What did you learn from the situation?


poohder said...

I just learned these things from the experience of others during our recent storms. they suggested when heading to your safe place be sure you have your purse that has your ID, license, credit cards and money. Definitely take any meds you might need as they could get blown away. And if have extra time and room, grab the folder that has your important papers and pictures. Oooh, I was just thinking maybe we could take photocopies of the important papers and just leave them in our safe place.

Autismland Penny said...

We do this every year before hurricane season. I have a backpack for everyone with a change of clothes, snacks, meds and important info. Always have a full tank of gas and cash on hand as well.

Angela said...

What a great post on safety, thanks for sharing these tips. I am going to put some in practice for sure. We have had so many sirens going off recently. Makes me nervous!


Penny said...

Another blog post on the same topic:

Penny said...

And another article:

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